Founded in 1907, Stainer & Bell Ltd is a small, independent, family-run business that specialises in the publication of quality music and books. There was neither a Mr Stainer nor a Mr Bell. Tradition has it that the six original partners in the firm chose the name for its creditworthy ring. However, there is a direct and substantial link with the past in the present management team, which over four generations can trace its roots back through the company’s history to 1912.
Composers published in the early years included Charles Villiers Stanford, Percy Buck, Harold Darke, Thomas Dunhill, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In an important stage both of consolidation and opportunity, Stainer & Bell in 1917 was appointed publisher of the influential Carnegie Edition, which in due course brought VW’s A London Symphony, Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus, Rutland Boughton’s The Immortal Hour and Frank Bridge’s The Sea to a fledgling catalogue already featuring the Five Mystical Songs and the Fantasia on Christmas Carols.
Later, the publishing pedigree was further enhanced by the acquisition of Augener, famous for its practical editions of the classics, of Joseph Williams, one the oldest British publishing houses, founded in 1808, and of Galliard, bringing to the parent company a fine range of cello music.
Having been based in a number of locations in central and north London over the years, the company moved in 1991 to its present headquarters at Victoria House in Finchley Central. In 2007, its hundredth birthday was celebrated in great style with a party at the St Albans Organ Museum.
Well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, Stainer & Bell’s unique contribution to British music is affirmed by the surpassing quality and breadth of a catalogue that is a microcosm of the variety and vitality of musical life in these islands. Building on the pioneering work of Edmund Fellowes in The English Madrigal School and Byrd Edition, and later the outstanding scholarship of Thurston Dart, Philip Brett and others, Musica Britannica, the Purcell Society Edition and Purcell Society Edition Companion Series, and Early English Church Music continue to uphold all that is best in modern musicology.
Publishing of new composers, including rising names such as Samuel Bordoli, Edmund Jolliffe and Rhiannon Randle, continues alongside the renewal and updating of performing material for mainstream orchestral works by Bridge, Butterworth, Delius, Elgar, Holst, Ireland, Gordon Jacob and Vaughan Williams, with contemporary piano music by Morgan Hayes and art-song by Rhian Samuel and Geoffrey Bush.
Arguably no publisher has made a more distinguished contribution overall to the cultivation of choral music both in Britain and in the wider English-speaking community. While Choral Now, the innovative programme of online repertoire for voices, showcases some of the brightest young compositional talent, new editions of classical choral works by Howells and Stanford, attractive new scores by Ronald Corp, plus freshly revealed early choral pieces by Vaughan Williams, define a rich and inexhaustible seam of music-making.
The corpus of music for organ completes an unrivalled inventory of material for church and cathedral, while also reflecting the instrument’s great versatility of style. Sparkling character pieces by Malcolm Archer, Christopher Maxim and Nigel Ogden in the ‘light organ’ series are complemented by romantic repertoire from Stanford, Coleridge-Taylor, William Lloyd Webber and others, Caleb Simper’s practical voluntaries, and John Norris’s expert transcriptions of popular classics and anthologies for weddings and funerals.
With no less an emphasis on diversity, the Stainer & Bell catalogue offers important contributions to jazz education, and to contemporary hymnody, including many of the most influential hymnwriters acknowledged today, plus the unique software resource HymnQuest. There are acclaimed music tutors by Bradley & Tobin, Adam Carse, Peter Lawson, Neil Mackay and William Squire, and textbooks and material for schools by Stewart Macpherson, Lucie and Roddy Skeaping, Patric Standford and Jeffrey Whitton.
The fruit of many decades of dedicated publishing of British music, the Stainer & Bell back catalogue is an invaluable asset for scholars, students and performers, an historical archive of which the content is increasingly integrated within the online catalogue.
Still independent and family-run, and still specialising in the publication of books and music of the highest quality, Stainer & Bell remains a British publisher with an international outlook and reputation, and with an emphasis on the quality of experience that delivers a service second-to-none to every customer.